ALBANY, NY (03/19/2012)(readMedia)-- A State Bar Association task force studying New York's Family Court system, placing particular emphasis on its impact on children and families, will convene the third of four statewide hearings on Thursday, March 22, on Long Island.
The Task Force on Family Court hearing, in the Appellate Division, Second Department, will be held from 9:20 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Nassau County Bar Association, 15th and West Streets, Mineola.
During the past decade, family courts have seen their workloads rising as the number of cases involving child custody, visitation and child support increases.
"The growing burden placed on our Family Court system is having a direct impact on our most vulnerable population -- our children," said State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo). "With these hearings, we are collecting information from a variety of experts that we hope will lead to improved conditions for children and the courts."
The task force previously held hearings in Albany and New York City. The final hearing is scheduled for March 29 in Buffalo.
"We were impressed with the depth of information we received during the first two hearings, and expect to gain further insights from the Long Island and Buffalo forums," said task force Co-chair Susan B. Lindenauer, retired counsel to the president and attorney-in-chief of The Legal Aid Society of New York City.
"The testimony will be very valuable in shaping our recommendations for improving the Family Court system," said Broome County Family Court Judge Mary Rita Connerton, who co-chairs the task force.
Among those expected to testify on March 22 are family court judges and others affiliated with the courts, local bar associations, legal service groups and organizations that serve children, families and battered women. Confirmed speakers include:
• Melissa Breger, professor of law, Albany Law School
• Donna England, treasurer, Suffolk County Bar Association, East Hampton
• Robert Mangi, Family Law Committee chair, Nassau County Bar Association, Mineola
• Jane M. Spinak, professor of law, Columbia Law School, New York City
• Lauren Anne Shapiro, director, Brooklyn Family Defense Project, Brooklyn
• Mary Grace Ferone, managing attorney, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, White Plains
• Lois Schwaeber, director of legal services, Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Bethpage
• Nancy Erickson, private attorney, Brooklyn
The Appellate Division, Second Department, is comprised of 10 counties: Dutchess, Kings, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester. Written testimony can be submitted to the Task Force on Family Court, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207.
The 35-member Task Force on Family Court, created in 2010, has four subcommittees, which address resources for litigants; resources for the courts; operations, case management and staffing; and technology. The task force will issue its preliminary report in June 2012 and a final report in November 2012. That report will be presented to the state chief administrative judge and others for consideration.
According to the state Office of Court Administration, family courts handled 720,850 court filings in 2010, compared to 683,390 in 2001. In New York City, the caseload was 246,266 in 2010, up from 226,544 in 2001.
Despite rising caseloads -- including a record 742,365 statewide in 2009 -- only four new Family Court judgeships have been created statewide since 1999 and none in New York City since 1991.
Family Court's Growing Burden
Type of Petition 2010 2001
Total Filings 720,850 683,390
Custody/Visitation 205,026 169,111
Support 267,820 217,352
Guardianship 4,791 4,313
Family Offense 65,874 59,137
Source: New York State Unified Court System, Report of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, 2010, 2001
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.